Archive for the ‘Startup Weekend’ Category

How to ruin your pitch, and your demo while you’re at it.

There are many ways to ruin your chances of making an impression.  Here’s a few gems from my experiences at Startup Weekend.


Ask for a show of hands or rhetorical questions.

Everyone before you asked for a show of hands.  I do not want to raise my hand again.  If you need the audience to validate you by raising their hands you’re asking too much.

“What would you say if I told you I could change your life?!”  Do you really expect me to answer you?

You’re pissing me off.

Talk quietly

What’s that?  Sorry can’t hear you.  You’ve already lost my attention.

Uhhhhhhh…. ummmmm….. so….


Ramble on and on incoherently

What I’m hearing “Blah blah blah.  Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog”.  Oh wait.  If you made an Arrested Development joke I might actually listen. You were less interesting than my computer.  You already lost.

Arrested Development reference... check.

“I don’t have much time so I’ll keep this short”

I already know you don’t have much time and you managed to waste more of it telling me what you’re going to do.  WHY HAVEN’T YOU STARTED YET?!

Read directly from notes

This should feel like a conversation, not a lecture.  If you’re speaking AT me, I’m not going to give you the time of day.  Back to my laptop…

Refuse to stop when your time is up

The elevator has stopped at my destination; if it were more socially acceptable I’d walk out.  Your time is up.  You should have been more succinct.

Tell me about your great idea that you have zero ability to work on

So you want to create another platform for social networking.  You have no skills marketing, designing, developing, selling, or really anything… but you have a lame idea.  Why in God’s name would I waste my time if you’re going to be dead weight.  Learn a skill… yesterday.

BONUS ROUND!  Demo time.

Don’t plan out your demo

“Doing it live” should be reserved for Bill O’Reilly, not for you to fumble over your words trying to show me something you created.

Ignore any microphones

Can’t hear ya buddy.  You’re now less interesting than twitter and reddit.

Ignore your sales plan

So you made something cool, and you plan to make money on it.  How the hell will anyone find it?

Show me a hockey stick and other fanciful numbers

You’re going to get astronomical growth in 3 years?  Yeah you and every other wannabe who saw “The Social Network”.  You can guarantee a million users?  Yeah… OK.  If you show me how your business plan would change as you grew you might impress me.

Avoid a use case and talk in vague generalities.

“This is going to revolutionize the market…”

“It’s going to make your life simpler”

“It’s going to bake you cakes and churn out the cure to cancer”

You might have actually made something I want to use, but if you spend your time bloating your demo with bullshit and don’t show me how I’d use it, you’re wasting time.

Make no mention of your vision

If you have a vision it can provide guidance for every decision you make.  It’s pretty binary.

if(decision.helps_me_approach(vision)) { do_it(); } else { move_on();}

Without that you’re going to try going a hundred directions at once.  You’ll be training to be a world class sumo wrestler while you train for record marathons.  You’ll fail at both.


Startup Weekend Hartford – Reflections

To put it simply, I loved StartupWeekend Hartford. The whole group was very supportive and it was great seeing what we could all accomplish in such a short timeframe. I’ve heard about startupweekend before, but never experienced one. I knew it was going to be a long weekend fueled with black coffee and ambition, but I wasn’t sure how the experience would feel. It was challenging, engaging, rewarding, stressful, exciting and fun. I had more fun that weekend than I have had in a long time.

The pitches were pretty varied, people were pitching some great ideas, and some really pie in the sky ideas. Some seemed like they were impossible to show working demos for. Some ideas felt old and stale “oh that’s been done before”. I KNEW mine was done before, but what better way to learn guitar than to play your own version of “Stairway to Heaven,” It was pretty surprising that anyone was actually interested by my pitch.

It seems like everyone that joined the group though was just looking for experience, winning would have just been icing on the cake. The primary goal would be to learn what we could from the experience and build up our skill sets for when we had another idea.

Saturday we worked most of the day, but mingled with some of the other teams to see how they were doing. We talked to a few of the mentors as well for guidance but mostly we were in grind mode.

The part that stands out the most to me was the presentation on Sunday. I remember distinctly pacing back and forth while we pored over the language of the presentation to make sure we gave off the most convincing argument that we could. We fought back and forth over individual words and timing. Over what slides we would include. How we would present it. Would I read the script off a tablet? My computer? Should I print it? No, there’s no time, just use my laptop. Tick tock. Tick tock.
Seeing the everyone’s results and how much progress they made since the pitch really blew me away.

Looking back, my idea wasn’t really new. I had been pondering it and taking a few stabs at it before. What had changed was the perspective that I looked at it. There was a lot of brainstorming in those 54 hours. We went from a very basic concept: visualize your todo list, to a much more full and well rounded concept. I wish we had more time to develop and code. Balancing the load of the team was challenging as well. We had a somewhat small group. 2 developers and 2 business and marketing guys. There were times I wish we had operated more like a well oiled machine, but we were just getting to know each other.

I was definitely torn as a developer between wanting to code and also driving forward the project that I pitched.
It was difficult going across the board from varying ideas and maintaining those ideas. I really wanted to create something more tangible but we weren’t able to in the time allotted. I think with more experience in rapid team building and rapid development, we’d be able to get something more tangible in a weekend.

I think I’m much better prepared for another startup weekend from the lessons I learned. Though talking out problem is great, there’s only so much time. Actions speak louder than words. Next time I’d put much more emphasis on a working prototype and customer validation from the beginning. A functioning prototype has a lot more “wow” factor, and makes customer validation a lot easier since you can ask for feedback on something more tangible than an idea.

Another important thing I learned about brainstorming was how important it was to timebox discussions so that they don’t run away from you into non-productive territory. If we sit down with the intent to hash out a problem, we better decide how long we expect it to take, or we can go on forever, and we only have a weekend.

I still want to continue my project, but with the weekend over, and the team and the intensity lifted, it’s back to the daily grind. I’ve kept in touch with my team to keep developing it in our free time.

At the end of the weekend I went out for drinks with a few of the other participants and we discussed our pet projects and visionary ideas and how we would get there with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck. I knew that I had found the people I needed to surround myself with. People with drive and creativity to solve problems we see around us big or small.
This is only the beginning. I’m already planning on going to SW Boston and SW New Haven. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m loving every minute of it.